Recordkeeping and research data management: a review of perspectives

Publication Date17 July 2017
AuthorRebecca Grant
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Information management & governance
Recordkeeping and research data
management: a review
of perspectives
Rebecca Grant
Department of Digital Collections, National Library of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
and Department of Archivistics, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore a range of perspectives on the relationship between
research data and records and between recordkeeping and research data management.
Design/methodology/approach This paper discusses literature in the eld of research data
management as part of preliminary work for the author’s doctoral research on the topic. The literature
included in the review reects contemporary and historical perspectives on the management and preservation
of research data.
Findings Preliminary ndings indicate that records professionals have been involved in the management
and preservation of research data since the early twentieth century. In the literature, research data is described
as comparable to records, and records professionals are widely acknowledged to have skills and expertise
which are applicable to research data management. Records professionals are one of a number of professions
addressing research data management. However, they are not currently considered to be leaders in research
data management practice.
Originality/value Research data management is an emerging challenge as stakeholders in the
research lifecycle increasingly mandate the publication of open, transparent research. Recent
developments such as the publication of the OCLC report “The Archival Advantage: Integrating Archival
Expertise into Management of Born-digital Library Materials”, and the creation of the Research Data
Alliance Interest Group Archives and Records Professionals for Research Data indicates that research
data is, or can be, within the remit of records professionals. This paper represents a snapshot of
contemporary and historical attitudes towards research data and recordkeeping and thus contributes to
this emerging area of discussion.
Keywords Competences, Data handling, Skills, Research data management, Research data
Paper type Literature review
This paper explores the perspectives on the relationship between research data and records
and between recordkeeping and research data management. The perspectives described
herein come from archival and recordkeeping professions, as well as others that write about
the management and preservation of research data.
The relationship between records professionals and research data has been addressed
directly by the archival profession in publications and professional fora. In March 2007,
Archival Science dedicated a special issue to Archiving Research Data, and the International
Council on Archives Section on University and Research Institution Archives 2014
Conference theme was research and scientic archives (http://icasuv2014.univ-paris-diderot.
fr/conference-13/conference-program/article/speakers). A 2014 survey of archivists working
in American university research libraries indicates that 49 per cent of respondents are
involved in research data management and preservation for their institution (Noonan and
Chute, 2014). Dooley (2015) argues that archivists have unique skills which should be applied
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
and research
Received 1 October 2016
Revised 6 February 2017
28 March 2017
Accepted 8 April 2017
RecordsManagement Journal
Vol.27 No. 2, 2017
©Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/RMJ-10-2016-0036
to materials with less obvious archival characteristics, including research data. The
international Research Data Alliance also facilitates an Interest Group for archives and
records professionals (
research-data.html) as well as libraries (
It appears that the recordkeeping community is engaging with research data
management and that records professionals are addressing the challenges and
opportunities associated with research data. Despite this, no survey or existing review
was identied which investigates theory and practice in the area to date. This literature
review aims to address this gap by exploring the subject of research data and its
management and how records professionals have engaged with it in the twentieth and
twenty-rst centuries[1].
This literature review represents a section of the author’s preliminary doctoral research,
undertaken in 2014, on the topic of records professionals and research data. The initial
review was conducted in two phases. The rst phase investigated the denitions of research
data in academic writing, practical handbooks, textbooks and manuals and policy
documentation. The second phase examined how records professionals engage with
research data. This paper focuses on this second topic.
Two main electronic databases were used to identify the literature discussed below:
University College Dublin’s Library OneSearch, and Google Scholar. As the author’s doctoral
research focuses on Irish policy and practice, the Irish Open Access portal RIAN was also
The review aimed to investigate literature written by records professionals regarding
research data; to identify other perspectives on research data and its management; and to
identify whether consensus exists on the professional skills required for successful research
data management. Initially, peer-reviewed academic journals relating to the archives and
records management professions were interrogated. These included Archival Science,
American Archivist,The Records Management Journal and Archivaria. The compound
terms “research data” and “research data management” were used initially to identify
articles. This yielded relevant results, but the use of simple terms (for example “research”,
“data” and “science”) produced additional material, for example relating to governmental
data sets which are not necessarily referred to as “research data”. The use of simple terms,
particularly “science”, also elicited material dated prior to 2000, where a discussion of
scientic “research data” could be inferred, but the term was not mentioned explicitly in the
body of the text. The use of simple terms led to a high volume of results, but those which
discussed related concepts, such as Open Data and Big Data, were excluded if the research
data did not constitute a major component of the paper.
A similar process was used to identify literature relating to the concepts of “research data
management” and “digital curation”. The International Journal of Digital Curation was
targeted specically as a contemporary source of relevant literature. To identify and capture
newly published literature relating to research data management, Twitter’s advanced search
was also used regularly across the one-year period for terms such as “research data” [and]
These systematic searches for literature conducted using electronic databases identied
an initial set of material. Citations and bibliographic references from this material were then
followed and this literature was included where relevant, thus widening the set further. As
literature was identied, it was added to a spreadsheet and coded with thematic labels (for

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